John 6:66 (HCSB) – From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.
What could possibly cause any disciple of Jesus to turn back and no longer accompany Him?
John had already mentioned it several chapters earlier, when he had quoted Jesus telling Nicodemus about what the judgement of God entails:
“…people loved darkness rather than the light…” (John 3:19)
God’s choosing of people to help bring about His kingdom does not guarantee that said people will then themselves choose to abide in Jesus. A few verses later, John gives us this stunning revelation about one of the Twelve that God had chose:
John 6:70-71 (HCSB) – Jesus replied to them, “Didn’t I choose you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is the Devil!” He was referring to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, one of the Twelve, because he was going to betray Him.
On the other hand, it’s also true that even though Jesus might refer to someone as the ultimate enemy, it does not necessarily mean that said person will never end up choosing to abide in Him…
Mark 8:33 (HCSB) – But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”
I mean, look at how Peter would later describe himself in the opening of his second epistle, after he had finally learned to no longer think about man’s concerns, but God’s…
2 Peter 1:1 (HCSB) – “Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ…”
We can’t put God in box, there’s no way around it.
By the way, Nicodemus also eventually came around himself…
John 19:38-39 (HCSB) – After this, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus — but secretly because of his fear of the Jews — asked Pilate that he might remove Jesus’ body. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took His body away. Nicodemus (who had previously come to Him at night) also came, bringing a mixture of about 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes.
Consuming His Flesh and Blood & The Father’s Granting
The second half of the sixth chapter of John can be tricky to understand. Just prior to it in verses 1-15, John describes the famous scene where Jesus feeds the 5,000 with merely five barley loaves and two fish. Then in verses 16-21, John tells of the moment when Jesus walks on water. Nothing hard to understand, it’s all pretty much straight forward so far (as long as you can handle miracles). But then, we come to something really strange in the middle of the next section of the chapter. Jesus encourages the hearers to consume His flesh and blood, and also that coming to Him cannot happen unless the Father grants it. Here is what happened just before verse 66 where we saw John describing in His Gospel that many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him…
John 6:53-65 (HCSB) – So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate — and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it?” Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who would not believe and the one who would betray Him.) He said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted to him by the Father.”
Some questions come to mind:
What is Jesus even talking about here? Unless someone eats the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks His blood, that person does not have life in themselves? Anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life? His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink? The one who eats His flesh and drinks His blood lives in Him, and He in him? The one who feeds on Him will live because of Him? And not only that, no one can come to Him unless it is granted to that person by the Father? What does that even mean?
These things have been debated both inside and outside of the church since John’s Gospel has been available to read. I am not going to reiterate any of these disagreements. You can look them up for yourself. What I am going to do is just look within the text itself to find out what’s going on here.
The Hebrew Mind
First off, you have to realize that not only is the notion of cannibalism (according to common sense anyway) completely heinous by default, but to the Hebrew mind listening to Jesus, just the thought of merely consuming blood on its own is an explicit and direct violation to the law of Moses:
Leviticus 17:10 (HCSB) – Anyone from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who live among them who eats any blood, I will turn against that person who eats blood and cut him off from his people.
Could you even imagine what else might have popped into the hearers’ heads from the Scriptures for what Jesus had suggested in this scene? It’s utter insanity. Is it any wonder why, “From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.”?
But, along with Peter some did stay…
John 6:67-69 (HCSB) – Therefore Jesus said to the Twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!”
Whether Peter and those who also chose to stay picked up on what Jesus was actually saying, who knows? Heck, I don’t even know if I understand, but here goes!
Hungry and Thirsty
Back in verse 35, Jesus (I believe) decoded what He’s getting at:
John 6:35 (HCSB) – “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”
Jesus is describing Himself metaphorically. What He is basically saying in this scene is…
Whoever eats His flesh = comes to Him
Whoever drinks His blood = believes in Him
In other words, whoever comes to Jesus (eats His flesh) and believes in Him (drinks His blood), such people will never be “hungry” or “thirsty” ever again. That’s why He makes an analogy between the bread given to the Israelites during the Exodus and Himself (since they brought it up), and (at the same time) He labels Himself as “the bread of life.” Let’s go back to the beginning of this scene and then unpack it…
John 6:22-35 (HCSB) – The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew there had been only one boat. They also knew that Jesus had not boarded the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone off alone. Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” Jesus answered, “ I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. Jesus replied, “This is the work of God — that you believe in the One He has sent.” “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. “What are You going to perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always!” “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”
After they had brought up the manna that the fathers had eaten in the wilderness, Jesus then took the ball and ran with it. But, it wasn’t flattery on His part. Jesus was leading them into the realization that they were just like the fathers…
John 6:36 (HCSB) – “But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe.”
Jesus saw right through them. Just as the fathers in the past had desired the manna but not Yahweh, those challenging Him here also desired bread but not the type of bread that Jesus was offering… Himself. The Biblical story was repeating itself. The writer of Hebrews also touched upon this same theme regarding the fathers…
Hebrews 4:2 (HCSB) – For we also have received the good news just as they did; but the message they heard did not benefit them, since they were not united with those who heard it in faith…
Those who have faith, those who see the Son and then eat His flesh and drink His blood, that’s who the Father had willed to give to Jesus…
John 6:37-44 (HCSB) – “Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Therefore the Jews started complaining about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Stop complaining among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
So, how then does the Father draw?
He draws through the teaching about His Son. In other words, those who embrace this good news are those who can then come…
John 6:45-46 (HCSB) – “It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me — not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.”
Jesus goes on…
John 6:47-52 (HCSB) – “I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
John 6 is not hard to understand. The most basic point is that, “Anyone who believes has eternal life.” Everyone else, sadly dies.
“How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
Simple… The Father grants it those who have faith, because they “listened to and learned from” Him.
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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